PARTY CRASHER In the chaotic world of American politics, about the only predictable event these days may be the regular release of a new book about the Trump administration — a phenomenon that describes nearly two dozen titles to date and that may soon include a memoir by the president’s eldest son as well as, eventually, one by the president himself. This week, the latest installment in the genre, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump,” by Tim Alberta, enters the nonfiction list at No. 2. Most others of its ilk have also appeared there, proving, perhaps, that the one other reliable variable in national politics may be the reading public’s apparently insatiable appetite for Trumpiana.
Alberta’s book arrives with a Hollywood-ready title (a phrase lifted from Trump’s Inaugural Address) and trailing a flurry of news articles touting some of its more sensational tidbits (thatexample: Trump claims to have “spotted” the political talent of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez long before most Americans knew her name; that Roger Ailes, the longtime C.E.O. of Fox News who died in 2017, believed that Barack Obama “really was a Muslim who really had been born outside the United States”). But Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico, has loftier ambitions. Nearly 700 pages long and stocked with granular reporting, his book aspires to explain the Republican transformation, over the course of a decade marked by often bitter infighting, from the party of compassionate conservatism under George W. Bush and Mitt Romney to the overtly nativist party of Trump. (In a review, The Times called the book “a fascinating look at a Republican Party that initially scoffed at the incursion of a philandering reality-TV star with zero political experience and now readily accommodates him.”)
Capitalizing on connections forged during years spent covering the party as a reporter for National Review and National Journal, Alberta interviewed nearly 350 sources, among them the former House speakers John Boehner and Paul D. Ryan; the Republican adviser Karl Rove; the former White House chief of staff and chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Preibus; and Trump himself.
Alberta says his readers fall across the political spectrum. “I know lots of Republicans who are loyal to Trump who are reading the book, because, if they’re being honest, everyone has a question about how did we get here?” At the same time, “liberals like the book because they see a Republican Party that sold many of its closest held principles in the pursuit of political power and that validates all of their animus toward the G.O.P.”
“In many ways Trump symbolized the climax of the Republican civil war and the end of the Republican civil war,” he argues. “Because this battle that had been waged within the party over matters of policy and ideology and tactics has largely been set aside at this point. The only remaining question within the Republican Party today is: Are you with Trump or against Trump?”